Last week I stressed that we are a Loved Community. God spoke tenderly through Isaiah saying of Israel, “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!” (Isaiah 49:15–16) Knowing God’s vast love for us is foundational in the life of the church. God’s love offers us security, it encourages and empowers us. God’s love is also transformative, it changes us and reshapes us. Those who God loves, will in turn become loving. Megan Hill wrote, Our loveliness blossoms out of the love of God for us and in us, and it is affirmed and magnified and publicly displayed in the love we have for one another. As you experience God’s love, do you find yourself changed by that love. Jesus said, “love each other as I have loved you.” (John 15:12) So too, we must care for others as Jesus cared for us. Our assembly moderator, Hamish Galloway phrased this well when speaking to the special assembly recently, he said, Let’s look after each other at this stressful time.
What does a caring community look like? A caring community looks after those within the community, “there was no needy person among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.” (Acts 4:34–35) Secondly, a caring community is actively engaged serving in the wider community. The Apostle Paul summed up such care when he wrote, “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” (Galatians 6:10) Every church family is tasked with the mission of doing good for all people.
What difference does this make to us? How is God inspiring us to show his care to others? When you think about care for people in the church or community, what do you feel God is calling you to? This is not about adding another task to the to do list, this is about being in the place God wants you to be, doing what God wants you to do, connecting with who God wants you to connect. As you minister to another person, you are in the place where God ministers to you and through you.
On one level we need to think about care for the soul, where we allow the time, space needed to focus on God and which in turn enables us to care for our soul and the souls of others. In part we can do this through the simple ministries of turning up and sticking around. It is being present with and for others. There used to be an old legal charge of loitering with intent. We should loiter with the intent of caring for each other. The pastoral care we offer to each other enriches the soul, perhaps a word of encouragement, a prayer of support, a moment to delve into the scripture together, a listening ear, an affirming voice, these can mean so much to the person who needs them, and it often costs us so little to offer this to them.
When we think of our care for the wider community, traditionally Greyfriars have focused on ministry to children. So we have, holiday programmes, mainly music, playgroup, move, and the light party. These ministries generally care for people who are not part of our church family. In this way we minister the care of the gospel, of grace and the love of God to people who don’t have other channels to receive God’s love.
- If Greyfriars is a ship set sail – how do you think our “crew” is doing at the moment? How best do we show care for those “on deck” and others who are still sheltering in their cabins?
- Why do you think Rev Galloway might have told the assembly commissioners, Let’s look after each other at this stressful time? Why might pastoral care be needed in churches in this season of life?
- How might we apply in our modern age, the attitude of the early church? Consider Acts 4:34–35 & Galatians 6:10
- How might the image of a shepherd and a flock help us to understand the care God show for his people? Consider Psalm 23, Psalm 95:7 & John 10:14.
- How does God’s love for us help us to become more loving towards others? Have you ever seen a change like this in someone’s life (perhaps in your own life)? Consider John 15:12
- Which ministries in our church most clearly express our care for the community?
- What could you offer to the church that might help us become a more caring community?
- As we aim to care for others, are there new ministries that God is inspiring us to be involved in at this time in the life of our church and community? Do you see new opportunities?
Rev John Malcolm